The duration of a pregnancy is medically calculated to end at 40 weeks after the start of a woman’s last normal menstrual period, however anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks is considered normal. The average pregnancy lasts about nine calendar months and one week. There can be some confusion when talking about months, i.e. five months is 20 weeks, but five months between January and May is 21 weeks. To ensure people do not misunderstand or get confused, doctors measure pregnancy in weeks.
Some women say they conceived two weeks after their last period, so they should be two weeks less pregnant than the doctor says, but medical convention dates a pregnancy from the start of a woman’s last period. If IVF was used to conceive the expected due date will be worked out from the date of your embryo transfer.
As a baby develops during the early stages of pregnancy, they all tend to be roughly the same size. Ultrasound experts have measured thousands of pregnancies and are able to judge a due date based on the length of the baby. If the date given by the ultrasound and the date worked out from your period are within a few days of each other that will be your confirmed due date. If the dates vary too much, the date given by the ultrasound scan is probably correct.
During early pregnancy it is easy for an ultrasonographer to accurately judge a due date. The estimated due date may be wrong, as bleeding that was thought to be a period may have been bleeding in the pregnancy, or ovulation at an unusual time in the month. These issues do not tend to matter if the baby is healthy, and babies do not always arrive when they are expected.
The start of labour is sometimes preceded by a show of mucous mixed with old blood. It may be difficult to tell the difference between labour pains and Braxton Hicks contractions, which are short and mild ‘practice’ contractions that can occur periodically from roughly 32 weeks. Labour pains will usually become stronger, more frequent, and last longer, although the first phase may take hours.
It can be helpful to ring your hospital and discuss your pains with a midwife if you have any doubts, and the midwife will be able to advise you on when to go to the hospital. If your waters break you should ring the hospital and let them know you are coming, with or without contractions.
Yes, you are able to dye your hair during pregnancy.
Using a sauna may cause your body temperature to rise, so it is best to avoid them. A spa is safe, but it is best to not stay in for too long or set the water too high, as it may make you feel sick or feint.
It is safe to have sex while pregnant, though you may feel too tired or it may be uncomfortable to do so. There are a few medical conditions where sex is not advised, but your doctor will be able to advise you about these conditions.
Your baby is probably already kicking, but you can’t feel it. If this is your first pregnancy you should probably begin to feel kicking between 18-24 weeks. You may feel it earlier if this is not your first pregnancy. It may take up to two more months for others to be able to feel the kicking from the outside.
The amount of weight gained during pregnancy is highly variable and will have a lot to do with genetics rather than how much you are eating. Some women gain very little weight whereas others may gain as much as 25 kg. It is important to follow a normal, healthy diet that has plenty of fruit, vegetables, grains, some dairy, fish, meat, lentils, beans, and eggs, and lesser amounts of fats and junk foods. There is no need to ‘eat for two’.
It is important that all pregnant women take folate (folic acid) during the first half of their pregnancy, even if they have a high-folate diet. If your blood tests show that you have some kind of vitamin or mineral deficiency, you will be advised as to what supplements you should be taking. Other supplements may be advised if your diet is lacking in certain areas. Most women will not need to take supplements if their diet is sufficient, as outlined above. If you are concerned about not getting enough vitamins, you should speak with your doctor.
It is best to avoid all medicines and herbal remedies. Some medications are safe to use during pregnancy for certain conditions. If you have concerns about any medications you should check with your doctor before taking them. Medications that are safe to take during pregnancy include:
- paracetamol – can be used for minor aches, pains, and headaches;
- vitamin B6 and ginger – can be used to help with nausea and vomiting, your doctor may advise you on other ways to treat this;
- rectal ointments (Rectinol) – can be used to treat haemorrhoids;
- psyllium (Metamucil) and fibogel – can be used for constipation, your doctor may advise you on other ways to treat this;
- asthma – can be managed using salbutamol (Ventolin) puffers;
- thrush – can be treated using clotrimazole (Canesten) topical cream; and
- antacids (Mylanta and Gaviscon) – can be used to manage heartburn and indigestion, your doctor may advise you on other ways to treat this.
There are a number of helpful books and websites about pregnancy. The names of some of these are:
- ‘The Australian Pregnant Book’ by Dr Derrick Thompson
- ‘Conception, Pregnancy and Birth’ by Dr Miriam Stoppard
- ‘Up the Duff’ by Kaz Cooke
- ‘Baby Love’ by Robin Barker
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) dictates how much health insurers and the government will pay to a medical service. The cost was set many years ago and only increases in line with inflation, but this does not take into account what services are provided by obstetricians. You don’t have to pay any fee to your obstetrician for them to be on call 24 hours a day in case of an emergency, or if you go into labour in the middle of the night or the weekend.
The other reason there is a large out-of-pocket expense for obstetric care relates to indemnity insurance. The out-of-pocket expenses have been calculated to cover the cost of insurance payments, and to compensate for the cover provided.
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.